Singapore ups fiscal spend for a third time, aims soften economic impact of Covid-19 – dpa international

Singapore skyline over Marina Bay (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — In a televised speech to parliament on Monday afternoon, Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a “solidarity budget” that will take government spending aimed at curbing the impact of coronavirus to over 40 billion dollars. Heng said the outlay aims “to save jobs and protect livelihoods of people” during an effective lockdown due to start tomorrow. All Singaporean adults are to receive a one-off handout worth 421 dollars (600 Singapore dollars) while some business levies will be waived or reduced. Monday marks the third time in six weeks that Heng has introduced extra fiscal measures to counter the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19, the potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Despite economic risk, Singapore lockdown looms after Covid-19 surge – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Announcing an effective lockdown that will run for a month from April 7, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Singaporeans on Friday afternoon that the country needs to “make a decisive move now” to stop the coronavirus. “We will close most workplaces except for essential services,” Lee said, touting the move as a “circuit breaker” aimed at interrupting a startling jump in infections over the past week. Singapore has seen the number of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, rise to 1,114. Five people have died, the latest fatality announced on Friday morning. Most of this week’s diagnoses have been described by the Health Ministry as “local,” after a period of weeks when most of the new cases originated in homebound Singaporeans and were labelled “imported.” “For half of these [new] cases we don’t know where or from whom they caught the virus,” Lee said

Biggest daily jump sees coronavirus cases in Singapore hit 1,000 – dpa international

The Diabetes and Metabolism Center at Singapore General Hospital (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry on Wednesday night confirmed 74 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, representing the biggest one-day increase since the outbreak began. The city-state’s total caseload has now reached 1,000. Fifty-four of the newly-confirmed diagnoses were described by the ministry as “local.” The resurgence in cases with no recent overseas travel history reverses a trend of “imported” cases – mostly homebound Singaporeans.  “Our focus now has to be on our locally transmitted cases, especially the cases that are still popping up,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. 

Singaporean activist jailed for a week for questioning judges – dpa international

dpa

KUALA LUMPUR — A critic of the Singaporean government is being jailed for one week starting Tuesday for “scandalizing the judiciary” with a Facebook post that queried whether the courts operate independently of the government. “I do not recognise the legitimacy of the judgment and the law, both of which are unjust,” Jolovan Wham, a prominent social activist, said on Facebook on Tuesday, before surrendering to police to serve the sentence rather than pay a fine of 3,510 dollars (5,000 Singapore dollars) fine. Restrictions against criticising the courts have remained in place in Singapore since British colonial rule, along with significant curbs on freedom of speech.

Singapore to spend 38 billion dollars as pandemic pummels economy – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat proposes spending up to 55 billion Singapore dollars (38 billion US dollars) to cushion the wealthy city-state against a looming recession triggered by coronavirus. “As an open economy, we will be deeply impacted by these global shocks,” Heng, who doubles up as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s deputy, told parliament on Thursday afternoon. Announcing what he termed a “resilience budget,” Heng projected that Singapore could spend up to 11 per cent of its gross domestic product to counter what he said could be “a recession at least as bad as the global financial crisis.” Singapore, which has the world’s fourth-highest GDP per capita according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) rankings, will spend over 11 billion dollars of its estimated hundreds of billions of dollars in reserves, Heng said. 

Singapore ramps up virus testing and tracing, cautions pubs ahead of shutdown – dpa international

Mount Elizabeth Medical Center in Singapore, destination for medical tourists from around Asia (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Police will patrol Singapore’s bars and nightclubs staging “farewell” events on Wednesday night, ahead of a government-enforced shutdown due to coronavirus. A joint statement on Wednesday by Singapore’s police, Tourism Ministry and enterprise board warned that attendance must be limited to 250 people. Organizers must “reduce mingling amongst participants” by keeping people “at least a metre” apart, the statement read, as Singaporeans took to social media to accuse the various venues of irresponsibility and recklessness. After a recent jump of Covid-19 cases, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus, Singapore announced on Tuesday that “entertainment venues” such as bars, cinemas, discos and theatres would have to close from March 26 until April 30.

Malaysia extends virus lockdown to mid-April as deaths hit 19 – dpa international

Lockdown as seen Iinside a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall on March 25 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia will extend restrictions aimed at stemming rising numbers of new coronavirus cases until mid-April, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday. “The trend [of new infections] is expected to continue for a while before new cases begin to subside,” Muhyiddin said in a televised lunchtime address, announcing that curbs on travel and business imposed a week ago will be extended to April 14. “The public must be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time,” the prime minister warned. Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced later on Wednesday that 19 people have died in the country after contracting Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, in the pandemic that has killed over 19,000 worldwide.

Singapore to close pubs, cinemas as imported coronavirus cases rise – dpa international

dpa

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry on Tuesday announced a range of new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, with “entertainment venues” such as bars, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs to be shuttered until April 30. The measures were announced as the ministry reported that 49 more people were diagnosed with Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus. Two people have died in Singapore after contracting the disease. Thirty-two of the new cases were categorized as “imported,” 27 of which were linked to a recent travel history to Britain, which on Monday announced a lockdown aimed at curbing its own spread of the virus.

Coronavirus forces trade and travel hub Singapore to close borders – dpa international

The Gardens By The Bay are one of Singapore's main tourist attractions (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — A ban on tourists announced by Singapore on Sunday is the latest in a series of border closures aimed at stopping a coronavirus pandemic that looks set to send the global economy into a tailspin. Citing a “heightened risk of importation of Covid-19 cases,” the Health Ministry stated that the only non-nationals allowed in from 11:59 pm (1559 GMT) on Monday will be work permit holders in “essential sectors” such as health care. The ministry said that 80 per cent of the city-state’s recently confirmed cases were “imported,” with around half coming from Europe, the “epicentre” of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The spike in imported cases mirrors recent trends across Asia, with China, Hong Kong and Vietnam among the countries reporting such rises.

Singapore reports first coronavirus deaths as case numbers rise across Southeast Asia – dpa international

People wearing facemasks inside a Kuala Lumpur mall on March 17, the day before the start of an anti-virus lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned Singaporeans on Saturday to expect more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak after the city-state’s first fatalities were announced earlier in the day.

“As we get more COVID-19 cases, more patients will need ICU [intensive care unit] care, and we must brace ourselves for more losses,” Lee said in a Facebook post.

Earlier Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced the deaths of a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man who had been diagnosed with Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. “We are deeply saddened by their passing,” Gan said, explaining that the woman had several medical conditions and was admitted to hospital a month ago with pneumonia.